One aspect of our mission at Muncie Voice is to hold our local newspaper media accountable for what they print. The newspaper has a code of ethics, or principles, but what happens when they don’t abide by them? The governing principles set forth by the Americian Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), and their preamble states the following:
The First Amendment, protecting freedom of expression from abridgment by any law, guarantees to the people through their press a constitutional right, and thereby places on newspaper people a particular responsibility.
Their first principle then states:
Responsibility. The primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time.
In order to make informed decisions, we must all share in the communication process to make informed decisions. When businesses fail, it’s generally because the owners were unable to see all aspects of his affairs. The same applies to our public officials when faced with making decisions that consider the greater good. At last nights city council forum, all candidates voiced that making informed decisions were essential to good government. Are the voters, and the public, receiving adequate versions of our local government affairs to make a decision about how public officials govern over our community?
The remaining first principle states:
Newspapermen and women who abuse the power of their professional role for selfish motives or unworthy purposes are faithless to that public trust. The American press was made free not just to inform or just to serve as a forum for debate but also to bring an independent scrutiny to bear on the forces of power in the society, including the conduct of official power at all levels of government.
The public trust has eroded to where only 20% of the population believes in the accuracy of what they read in the newspaper. Why has that trust eroded to such a low number?
According to the results of a Pew Research Center from 1985-2011, our trust in the newspaper has eroded because people feel like powerful people, and companies, influence 80% of the newspapers.
The Gannett media empire, which owns our local newspaper, definitely influences the public through their reporting, guest, and opinion columns. What is their agenda, and whose interests do they serve?
Are they community builders, or do they represent entrenched interests within our community, and/or elsewhere? Do they promote the greater good?
We need to explore these powerful questions more carefully since there is great power placed in their hands, and with that power comes even greater responsibility. Are they abusing their power? While they are scrutinizing our local government officials, who is scrutinizing them, and holding them accountable?
Maybe during all their staff reductions, the price we’re paying for less investigate journalism has been a short cut around principles and ethics. We’ll explore more on this topic in the coming days.